Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Awards

Elise Burton

Harvard University

2017 Honorable Mention (Social Sciences)

Elise Burton

Elise Burton

Genetic Nationalism: Scientific Communities and Ethnic Mythmaking in the Middle East
Harvard University, Middle Eastern Studies & History
Supervised by Afsaneh Najmabadi

The Committee received a rather large number of submission, 36 in total. After careful review and discussion of the files, the Committee found, “The Ways of Zainab: Visitations and Valuations between Iran and Syria via Turkey,” by Dr. Emrah Yıldız the winner. The dissertation is from Departments of Anthropology/Middle East Studies, Harvard University and it was supervised by Professor Ajantha Subramanian. The Committee was very impressed by the creative and comparative qualities of the analysis and the substantial ethnographical and archival research for this dissertation.

The Committee was also very impressed by Elise Burton’s dissertation, “Genetic Nationalism: Scientific Communities and Ethnic Myth-making”. The dissertation is from the Departments of Middle East and History, Harvard University and it was supervised by Professor Afsaneh Najmabadi. Dr. Burton meticulously analyzes a wide range of exciting new data, consisting of medical journals, letters between scientists, and more. The dissertation is impressive in how it compellingly works across three different countries and over a quite long span of time.  It draws on an impressive array of sources, and truly brings to the fore the contribution of Middle East scholars to studies supporting genetics and nationalism. Although there is a vast scholarship on ethno-nationalism in the Middle East Studies, this dissertation breaks new ground by taking a Science and Technology Studies approach to the emergence and construction of ethno-nationalism in the region.

2017 Review Committee
Ali Mirsepassi, New York University (chair)
Janine A. Clark, University of Guelph
Banu Gokariksel, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Mostafa Minawi, Cornell University

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